ALCTS Liaisons and Representatives Reports, Annual 2013

ALA Membership Promotion Task Force

The Membership Promotion Task Force met on Sunday, June 30, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The members of the ALA Membership Promotion Task Force are representatives of divisions, round tables, and interest groups in ALA who are charged with promoting ALA membership within their respective groups. At its meeting at conferences, the task force discusses broad issues related to membership promotion and retention.

Kay Cassell, chair of the Membership Promotion Task Force, reported that the proposal for adjustments to personal dues rates that was before the ALA membership this past spring passed.

The focus of one of this year’s Emerging Leaders projects was on ALA personal membership recruitment and retention. The team with this project was tasked with finding out where ALA members find value in their membership, and what make some members renew their ALA membership and what makes others leave the organization. First- and second-year ALA members were surveyed in this project to find out their opinions on ALA and the value of their membership in ALA. The results of the survey indicated that members like having a “home” in ALA. Younger members are more likely to stay in ALA and renew their personal memberships if they have a connection to a specific division or round table.

The ALA Membership Committee is investigating establishing a space in ALA Connect where best practices documents relating to membership recruitment and retention could be stored and shared.

Task Force members representing divisions, round tables, and interest groups in ALA gave status reports on the recent activities of their groups. Representatives of ALCTS, ALSC, GODORT, and IFRT gave brief summaries of the recent membership activities their groups have been involved in since Midwinter in Seattle. Several Task Force members commented that their membership numbers were declining.

Ron Jankowski, ALA Membership Development Director, announced that a new student support portal had been added to the ALA web site. Library and information school students can use this portal to access links that will give them valuable information about ALA services, programs, and products.

—Submitted by ALCTS Liaison Deborah A. Ryszka

Association of Specialized & Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) Accessibility Assembly

The assembly met on Sunday, June 30, at 4 p.m. A mission statement was drafted and the goals and objectives for the ASCLA Accessibility Assembly were discussed, accepted and now forwarded to ASCLA for approval.

The group discussed the initiatives of Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure and CLOUD4All to allow accessibility technologies to reside in a computing cloud rather than on individual machines. This has great potential but will require buy-in from libraries.

—Submitted by ALCTS Liaison Kevin Furniss

American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works

No action items to report. No immediate concerns between AIC and ALCTS at this time.

—Submitted by ALCTS Liaison Jennifer Teper

Freedom to Read Foundation

The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) met Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 9 a.m.

Litigation Activities

The most infamous act of classroom censorship in recent history is the State of Arizona’s closure of the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies (MAS) program pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute §15-112. §15-112 prohibits both public and charter schools from using class materials or books that “encourage the overthrow of the government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

In June 2011, the State Superintendent of Instruction, John Huppenthal, declared that TUSD’s MAS program was in violation of §15-112 and ordered the TUSD school board to close the program or pay a penalty amounting to 10% of TUSD’s annual budget. As a result of Huppenthal’s decree, the board eliminated the MAS program. A group of teachers and students sought to restore the MAS program by filing suit in federal district court against Superintendent Huppenthal and other state officials. Their complaint, Acosta, et al. v. John Huppenthal, et al., asserted that §15-112 was overbroad, void for vagueness, and violated their rights to free speech, free association, and equal protection. The court quickly dismissed the teachers for lack of standing but then proceeded to consider the students’ claims. On March 8, 2013, the court issued an opinion largely upholding §15-112, holding that the courts owe “considerable deference” to the state’s “authority to regulate public school education.” While the court struck down one provision of §15-112 barring courses “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” it rejected the argument that the other provisions of the statute violated the students’ First Amendment rights and their right to equal protection under the law. I am pleased to report that the Freedom to Read Foundation will be taking the lead in writing and filing an amicus curiae brief in support of the student plaintiffs that will argue that §15-112 is unconstitutional.

Developing Issues

The Developing Issues Committee provided information and led discussions about two emerging issues that could impact intellectual freedom in libraries and give rise to future litigation. The first discussion reviewed the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act to conduct massive surveillance of U.S. citizens’ phone and Internet activities, and the impact on our First Amendment right to freely associate. The second discussion considered the threat posed to the freedom of the press and our right to freely access information by the Department of Justice’s attempts to charge journalists reporting on leaks and national security stories with violations of the Espionage Act.

Only A Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence

After the Newtown gun violence tragedy, the FTRF Board voted to provide financial support for a report issued by the Media Coalition that would respond to demands to censor media containing violent content. On June 24, the Media Coalition (of which FTRF is a member) issued the thirteen-page report, “Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence.” The report represents an effort to educate the public, politicians, and interest groups on what scientific research really says about the impact of media violence on individuals.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Crime statistics do not support the theory that media causes violence.
  • Research into the effects of video games on aggression is contested and inconclusive. Much of it suffers from methodological deficiencies and provides insufficient data to prove a causal relationship.
  • Government censorship of violent content is barred by the First Amendment for all types of media, but industry self-regulation works.

The report concludes by reaffirming the Media Coalition’s statement addressing violence in the media, which affirms that censorship is not the answer to violence in society. FTRF is a signatory to the statement.

FTRF Membership

The foundation continues to implement a multipronged strategic plan, which includes building organizational capacity in order to support litigation, education, and awareness campaigns. Membership in the Freedom to Read Foundation is the critical foundation for FTRF’s work defending First Amendment freedoms in the library and in the larger world. As always, I strongly encourage all ALA members to become a personal member of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and to have your libraries and other institutions become organizational members. Please send a check ($35+ for personal members, $100+ for organizations, and $10+ for students) to: Freedom to Read Foundation, 50 E. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.

Alternatively, you can join or renew your membership by calling 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4226, or online at www.ftrf.org.

—Submitted by ALCTS Liaison Kay Cassell